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Hill v. SJV, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

March 22, 2017

BRIEN O. HILL, Plaintiff,
SJV, LLC, Defendant.


          Gerald Bruce Lee United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant SJV, LLC's ("SJV") Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted (Dkt. No. 10). Plaintiff, Brien Hill, brought this suit against SJV under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., seeking monetary damages for alleged acts involving discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful discharge.

         The issue is whether Plaintiffs Complaint is time barred where he filed it more than six months after the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") provided him with constructive notice of his right to sue, where the Complaint alleges a date of actual notice that is more than ninety days from when Plaintiff initiated this court action, and where Plaintiff has not offered any reason why the ninety-day limitations period should be subject to equitable tolling. The Court will grant SJV's Motion to Dismiss because Plaintiffs ADA claims are time barred and, therefore, the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

          A. Factual Background

         In September 1999, Plaintiff underwent surgery causing the amputation of his leg below the knee. (Compl. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff was employed by SJV, a for-profit early education and childcare facility franchise of The Learning Experience ("TLE"), for two years until February 26, 2015. (Compl. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff states that he began employment with SJV as a "prep cook" and, after eight months of excellent reviews, later became an aftercare bus operator and program aide. (Compl. ¶ 4.)

         On February 24, 2015, Plaintiff asked SJV Assistant Center Director Chenelle Haygood if SJV could assign Plaintiff an aide to assist in his various duties, and also to authorize Plaintiffs request for leave. (Compl. ¶ 26.) Plaintiff asserts that these requested absences are protected under the ADA. (Compl. ¶ 52.) Ms. Haygood allegedly replied that the hiring of an aide would be too much of an additional cost to SJV, and that SJV was seeking to immediately replace Plaintiff before Plaintiffs disability began to cost SJV money. (Compl. ¶ 26.) Plaintiff responded that Ms. Haygood's comments were in direct violation of Plaintiffs ADA rights, to which Ms. Haygood replied that she was merely expressing the views of the collective staff. (Compl. ¶ 27.) Plaintiff further alleges that Ms. Haygood warned Plaintiff that if he attempted to meet with SJV Human Resources Manager Sean Vieira to discuss his claims of ADA violations, SJV would fire Plaintiff. (Compl. ¶ 51.)

         Plaintiff alleges that on February 25, 2015, he contacted SJV Center Director Judy McClimans and Business Manager/Owner Jennifer Vieira to state his reasons for another pay increase, to petition for a fulltime work schedule in order to qualify for overtime pay, and to be permitted to hold his own aftercare class. (Compl. ¶ 15.) Ms. Vieira informed Plaintiff that his pay request was being taken into consideration, but that they would not allow Plaintiff to hold his own aftercare class because of safety risks associated with Plaintiffs "lack of mobility" and health risks associated with Plaintiffs "sweaty stinky prosthesis." (Compl. ¶¶ 23-24.) Plaintiff also contends that SJV employees began to create a hostile work environment by taunting Plaintiff and making jokes about his disability. (Compl. ¶¶ 52-54.)

         Plaintiff asserts that on February 26, 2015, he was informed of two sexual harassment claims against him by two undisclosed SJV employees. (Compl. ¶ 31.) Plaintiff made both verbal and written responses to these allegations, and TLE corporate management allegedly placed Plaintiff on unpaid suspension until an investigation could be completed. (Compl. ¶ 31.) The next day, on February 27, 2015, Plaintiff received an official termination email from the SJV owner, Ms. Vieira, citing the sexual harassment allegations as the reason for dismissal. (Compl. ¶ 33.)

         In his seven-count Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that SJV violated the ADA by: (1) retaliating against Plaintiff by firing him for attempting to meet with the SJV human resources manager to address the hostile work environment; (2) discriminating against Plaintiff by failing to provide reasonable accommodations for his disability; (3) failing to engage in the interactive process as required by the ADA; and (4) facilitating the filing of sexual harassment charges against Plaintiff because he exercised his ADA rights.

         B. Procedural History

         On November 24, 2015, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia entered an order transferring this case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. (Dkt.No.3.)

         On March 13, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC. (Dkt. No. 14 at 36.) Four days later, on March 17, 2015, the EEOC mailed a right-to-sue notice to Plaintiff. (Dkt. No. 14 at 38.) The Complaint states that "[o]n approximately August 3, 2015, Plaintiff received from the EEOC a notice of charge of discrimination on his ADA claims, and has brought suit within [ninety] days of receipt of notice." (Compl. ¶ 76.[1]) On November 4, 2015, the District of Columbia received Plaintiffs Complaint and Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis ("IFP Motion"). (Dkt. No. 3 at 1 n.l.[2]) Therefore, this Court will treat Plaintiffs Complaint as if it were filed on November 4, 2015 for purposes of this motion, even though the docket states that Plaintiff filed the Complaint on December 10, 2015.

         On July 29, 2016, the Court entered an order granting Plaintiffs IFP motion. (Dkt. No. 5.) On February 8, 2017, the Complaint was served on SJV. (Dkt. No. 9.) On February 17, 2017, SJV filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), along with a supporting memorandum and exhibits. (Dkt. Nos. 10, 11, 14.) In its supporting memorandum, SJV argues that Plaintiffs lawsuit is untimely because he failed to initiate the lawsuit within ninety days of receiving the right-to-sue notice from the EEOC, and because there are no grounds to toll the timelessness requirement. (Dkt. No. 11.) Plaintiff has not filed a response to SJV's ...

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